It's been a long time since the story line in this series has changed. Maryland has defeated Virginia 13 straight times. The Maryland players won't say so publicly, but they think they should always beat Virginia.

And at 2:30 today, before nearly 50,000 in Byrd Stadium and a national television audience, the Terrapins again will be favored over the Cavaliers. A victory or a tie would make Maryland the outright Atlantic Coast Conference champion, its third straight title.

Maryland is 7-3 overall, 5-0 in the conference. Virginia is 6-4 and 4-2 in the ACC. If Maryland loses, it would be tied with Georgia Tech for the title.

"We don't want to share the ACC title," quarterback Stan Gelbaugh said recently. "We know Virginia is a really good team and they have a lot of incentive in this game also. But we feel the ACC championship belongs to us and we want to keep it here."

This game certainly isn't as glamorous as it was last year when Maryland, in the midst of a five-game winning streak, met the best Virginia team in the school's history, which was unbeaten in nine consecutive games.

This year, CBS will feature two unranked teams playing a regional game of very little national significance beyond the championship of a mediocre conference.

Of course, the teams can't afford to think that way. Virginia, with a victory, has a slim shot at going to the Aloha Bowl. Maryland already has locked up its bid to the Dec. 21 Cherry Bowl. And regardless of what outsiders think, winning the ACC was one of Maryland's primary preseason goals.

"Why is it important?" Coach Bobby Ross asked rhetorically. "It's a chance to at least equal last season's won-lost record (8-3). And there's a sense of pride. We'd very much like to win the conference title outright."

There certainly is a sense of pride and finality for the Maryland seniors, specifically Gelbaugh. Despite being criticized much of the season for Maryland's offensive inadequacies, he could break two of the school's all-time offensive records held by Boomer Esiason.

Gelbaugh needs only 46 yards to break Esiason's single-season record for yards passing, and 113 yards for a new single-season total offense record. A great day for Gelbaugh, 25 completions, would allow him to break Esiason's mark for pass completions in one season.

Records aside, the Terrapins would like to continue their dominance of Virginia, which just doesn't appear to have the offensive weapons to beat Maryland in College Park.

Clemson's Kenny Flowers, two weeks ago, became the only back this season to rush for 100 yards or more against Maryland. Perhaps the only other ACC player capable of doing that is Virginia's Barry Word -- the league's player of the year. But he has been ruled ineligible for not fulfilling the terms of academic probation.

Don Majkowski and backup Scott Secules are decent enough quarterbacks. But with so many other injuries to key players, like flashy sophomore receiver John Ford and running back Antonio Rice, Virginia's offense would seem to be hard pressed to move the ball against the ACC's best defense.

Even Howard Petty, Word's replacement, has had leg bruises all season.

The Terrapins have too many all-ACC defenders -- defensive backs Al and Keeta Covington, linebacker Chuck Faucette, guard Bruce Mesner -- to play poorly two straight games.

The defense had some breakdowns at Clemson two weeks ago, but the coaches and players feel they have things straightened out now.

But the option game has given Maryland big problems, and it would be surprising if Virginia didn't go to the option a good deal.